ANGE1: "I needed a new challenge [...] to prove that it’s too early to write me off"
We caught up with Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow, who explained his decision to part ways with HellRaisers, why he wasn't able to join Natus Vincere and whether he feels he will reach a form reminiscent of his 2017 showings.
The Ukrainian veteran closed a chapter in his career last week as he parted ways with HellRaisers, the organisation he had helped to build in 2014 following his departure from Astana Dragons. During his six-year stint, he led the team to eight Majors, three of which with playoff appearances (EMS One Katowice 2014, DreamHack Winter 2014 and the FACEIT Major 2018), and to a handful of international titles.
In a conversation with ANGE1, we discussed his feelings about the departure and which iteration of the various HellRaisers rosters he found most memorable. We also touched on his involvement in the decision-making process behind the highly-scrutinized roster adjustments of late, and why his outstanding form of 2017 has not been replicated.
You've concluded a six-year tenure with HellRaisers. What does it feel like to part ways with an organization that you had been part of for such a long time?
My first feeling was sadness, but I also felt that I had been stagnating and wasn’t developing as a player and an in-game leader for quite some time now. I needed a new challenge, one that would allow me to prove that it’s too early to write me off.
In the announcement, you mentioned that you are up for any offers. Will you consider working in an international setting once more, or would you prefer to lead a Russian-speaking team?
It doesn’t really matter what language the team will speak. The players on roster and the organization that I will represent are more important.
Of the various iterations of HellRasiers, which did you find most memorable?
I gave a small part of myself to every single roster I was in, so it’s difficult to point out a single one. I have warm memories of the roster with STYKO, Zero, bondik and DeadFox, and when we were able to breach top 8 in the HLTV.org world rankings in spite of all expectations. Securing Legends status with ISSAA and woxic was also memorable, but working with those two shaved off a few years of my life (laughs).
You described the decision to part ways with the organization as a "step out of your comfort zone". How do you think will this impact your progression as a player?
I can finally take a break and dedicate time towards developing myself as both a player and an in-game leader. An endless string of rosters, each with its own set goals, really takes a toll on you, and you don’t always have the opportunity to spend some time to develop yourself. In the next couple of weeks, I want to play for my own pleasure.
In a previous interview, you mentioned that you felt you hadn't yet left your mark on CS:GO. Is this change in a bid to finally achieve that? Will you approach the coming times differently than how you did before?
Indeed, I know that I haven’t yet shown everything that I’m capable of, and I hope that these changes will help activate me. As for approaches, it’s relative and very individual. You need to understand who you’re working with, their motivations and their strengths. I’m of the opinion that you need to focus on your players’ strong sides, and the rest depends on them.
There has been a lot of criticism regarding the moves HellRaisers have made in the last 18 months. How involved were you in the decision-making process of the organization?
I take full responsibility for everything that was happening within the roster for the past six months, and while most of the players were signed as free agents, I genuinely believed that we could've grown to become a serious contender. It’s pretty difficult to get a roster together in CIS without a spare million dollars.
In the past, it was suggested that the only reason why you didn’t leave to join NAVI was because you wanted to stay in HellRaisers, the organization you had helped to build. Was this accurate? Do you still own a stake in the organization?
The only reason why I didn’t join NAVI at the time was the slightly heightened appetites of the people that were agreeing my transfer and the unexpected return of Zeus from Gambit. Regarding my stake in the organization, yes, but it was small, and due to my departure from HellRaisers, I will no longer have it.
You made a name for yourself as a strong in-game leader with a high skill ceiling. In 2017, you averaged a 1.15 LAN rating, but in 2018 and 2019, your numbers were in the red. How do you explain this dip in form? Are you confident that you will be able to go back to your best form?
Due to constant roster changes over the past couple of years I really didn’t have enough time to work on my individual game, and as time goes by, you need to dedicate progressively more time to that aspect of play. Now I have the perfect opportunity to take some time off and focus solely on myself, so a return to form, in my opinion, is just a question of time.
What is your opinion about the current state of the CIS scene? NAVI are at the top of the world right now, but everyone else seems to be struggling, even Virtus.pro and forZe...
I think CIS Counter-Strike is currently on the rise, and I might even say it’s at its peak. Four to five teams can put up a fight against practically any team in the world, plus NAVI reached number one in the rankings, albeit not too long ago.